Robert Perea and Jim Vallet, The Fernley Reporter
It was a mostly successful debut week for the picks, with Jim and I going a combined 9-4, or 8-3 if you discount the game we had the opposite side of.
I knew I was going to write this at some time this season, but…I had hoped it wouldn’t be after the first week…
My name is Jim, and I’m a Detroit Lions fan.
I guess there are worse things to admit, I just can’t think of many right away. My parents and both my brothers had season tickets, and I have countless memories of great times at Tiger Stadium and the Pontiac Silverdome. I remember our whole family sitting around our TV cheering on the Silver and Blue.
The problem is, there is no team, in any sport, who has let its fans down as much as the Detroit Lions, although the Cincinnati Bungles did their best Lions imitation Sunday by having a shovel pass intercepted (2nd worst pass I’ve ever seen, behind only the New Orleans Saints attempted spike that turned into a pick 6 the other way) and having their field goal kicker injure himself as he approached the ball while missing an easy field goal that would have sent their game into overtime. But that’s one game, the Bungles have been to two Super Bowls (although they did lose them both). Let me explain why the Lions are so disappointing:
- The Lions are the only NFL team to give up a game-losing overtime kickoff return;
- The Lions are the ONLY NFL team that was in existence in 1990 to never even appear in a Super Bowl;
- In 2019, the Lions blew a 4th Quarter lead an incredible 7 times;
- In an era when 45 yard field goals were an adventure and 50-yard field goals were rare, the Lions lost a game on the last play of the game when straight on kicker Tom Dempsey kicked a then record 63-yard field goal. As Dempsey was lining up, the announcer asked, “Is this a joke?”;
- The Lions are one of two NFL teams to lose an All Pro player in the prime of his career because he was suspended for gambling for a year;
- The Lions once lost a game because their coach did not know the rules about properly making a challenge that they clearly would have won;
- The Lions once lost a playoff game by 2 points when their All Pro kicker (ironically nicknamed “Steady Eddie”) missed a 43-yard field goal attempt (in Detroit, that’s what “wide right” means to us) on the final play of the game;
- The Lions once lost a game because they attempted a fake punt with a 4 point lead in the 4th Quarter from their own 10 that only their punter knew about. After giving up the ball on their own 8, the touchdown that followed meant the Lions lost by 3;
- The Lions once lost a playoff game by the bewildering score of 5-0, meaning their offense was a -2 that day;
- If you think Andrew Luck was the first superstar to quit on his team during training camp, think again. Barry Sanders did it to the Lions a little over 20 years earlier;
- The Lions once lost a game when they won the overtime coin toss, but chose the wind instead of the ball. The wind didn’t bother the Bears at all and they drove right down the field against the wind and scored, never allowing Detroit to touch the ball;
- The Lions are the only NFL team to go 0-16.
The Lions lose because of penalties against them. The Lions lose because of penalties not called on the other team, like when a Seahawks player batted the ball through the end zone. The Lions lose because of weather. The Lions lose because they are not prepared. The Lions lose because the other team is more prepared. The Lions lose because of poor drafts, like when they drafted probably the best flag football team ever. The Lions lose because of kicking, sometimes by poor kicking of the football, and sometimes because of kicking the other team’s players. The Lions lose because of poor coaching. The Lions lose because of injuries. The Lions lose because of Payton, Favre, Rodgers, and Taylor. The Lions NEVER win on a Hail Mary, but both Favre and Rodgers have thrown multiple successful Hail Marys against them.
All-Pro players come to Detroit and stink, genius coaches come to Detroit and forget how to coach. Players, coaches, even stadiums come and go…and still the Lions lose. In fact, the only consistency is that no matter what, the Lions lose.
So, don’t cry to me, Cincinnati. The Lions blew a 17-point 4th quarter lead last Sunday, and lost again. Not only that, but they should have still won when Matthew Stafford threw a PERFECT pass RIGHT TO to a WIDE OPEN D’Andre Swift in the end zone with 6 seconds left in the game, and, HE DROPPED IT!! Actually, the Lions might have caught a break with that one. Had Swift’s stone hands not gotten in the way of the perfectly thrown pass, that ball would have smacked Swift right in the face and probably caused major facial damage, and Swift might have had to miss some game time, leaving the Lions with only 24 healthy running backs. Maybe fortunes are about to turn, or maybe it’s just more of the same…
Here’s my picks for this week against the point spread as listed on espn.com as of Tuesday, September 15.
Philadelphia (+1.5) vs. LA Rams. The line has moved from Rams +1 to Rams -1.5, and may continue to move in the Eagles’ favor. Last week, betting against teams where the lines moved against them was not successful, and a cross country trip for the Rams combined with a time change will keep that trend going.
Carolina (+9) at Tampa Bay. The line opened at Carolina +7 & has moved to 9. See above. I don’t know if the Bucs are good enough to give any NFL team 9 points.
Baltimore (-7) at Houston. Houston looks good against mediocre teams, and bad against good teams. Baltimore is a good team.
Kansas City (-8.5) at LA Chargers. I don’t think the Chargers can score enough to keep up.
Seattle (-3.5) vs. New England. I think the Pats’ defensive personnel losses catch up with them this week.
It was an eventful weekend on the field. The caliber of play I saw in the NFL was better than I expected, although I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Despite the common perceptions of professional athlete lifestyles, the truth is NFL players put an incredible amount of work and preparation into their craft, and any player who doesn’t, won’t be successful and won’t last long in the league, no matter how talented he may be.
It was a much different story on Saturday, though, as there was a wide degree of variance in how prepared some teams were to play compared to others. While that led to a lot of penalties and turnovers in some cases, as you might expect, the biggest difference in preparation I saw was in special teams. There were lots of long kickoff returns last weekend in college football. While the same three return touchdowns seemed to be playing on a loop on all the highlight shows, it was actually a lot more 30 and 40 yard returns than normal that didn’t make the highlight shows but that showed that some teams were more ready than others.
Special teams didn’t seem to be such an issue in the NFL games I saw, other than the Titans kicker needing the GPS on his phone to find the uprights.
There were also some things, COVID-19 related and otherwise, of note. A Texas State quarterback who missed the first game two weeks ago because of COVID returned last week, while his replacement in the first game was himself out for COVID last week. Maybe both will be available this week. Georgia Southern had 33 players unavailable for their game last week, mostly because of COVID contact tracing, after most of the team had been forced to leave campus because of a hurricane. A Texas player, who had started eight games last year, quit the team in the middle of the Longhorns’ 59-3 win over UTEP because he wasn’t playing enough, and West Virginia suspended 11 players the night before their game for violating team rules. Southern Mississippi coach Jay Hopson resigned after his team was embarrassed in a loss two weeks ago to South Alabama, and then accusations of financial improprieties in the football program surfaced. Houston and Baylor both had their games last week postponed because their opponents had COVID outbreaks, and both were scheduled to be off this weekend, so they agreed to play each other instead.
As exciting as it is to have football back, I suspect many of those situations are going to become the norm this season.
This week, the challenge will be to not only avoid the overreactions to the opening week, but to find a way to capitalize on some of those overreactions.
So, here goes:
(Lines from William Hill, as of Wednesday)
Wake Forest (+2 1/2) at North Carolina St. Last year’s Wake Forest quarterback, Jamie Newman, transferred to Georgia as a graduate transfer, where he has proceeded to opt out of this season, thereby leaving two teams missing their projected starting quarterback. Luckily for Wake Forest, Sam Hartman has started several games when Newman was out for the Demon Deacons, and he has done well. I expect him to do well again here, against a Wolfpack team that wasn’t very good last year, then had their opener last week postponed because of a COVID outbreak on the team. NC State could well be without several players because of that, but even if they aren’t, those guys didn’t get much time to prepare in the past two weeks. Wake Forest got blown out by Clemson last week, but NC State ain’t Clemson. I’m holding out for +3 before I plunk down my cash, but if I don’t get that, I’ll take the 2 ½.
Navy (+7) at Tulane. Like my pick last week on South Alabama against Tulane, I think Tulane is in for a much tougher fight than the pointspread calls for. South Alabama led the whole way before losing in the end, but the pointspread cover was never in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Navy didn’t tackle in practice before their game against BYU, where they lost 55-3. But by the time they play Saturday, that will have been almost three weeks ago, and after realizing his mistake, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has had the Midshipmen hitting in practice, Helping with the preparation is that Tulane runs an option offense similar to the one Navy runs. Unless neither team is successful moving the ball, that means this game will only feature seven or eight possessions each, and that makes it difficult for the favorite to cover when they have to win by two scores. I expect a much different Navy team than BYU saw, and I think Navy finishes the job that South Alabama couldn’t.
Cincinnati (+6) at Cleveland. I’m not sold yet on Joe Burrow as an NFL quarterback, but I’m absolutely not a believer in Baker Mayfield. Quarterbacks aside, though, the Bengals are a better team than they were last year when they went 2-14 without A.J. Green and a few other injured guys, who are back now. Even at 2-14, the Bengals lost a lot of close games last year, and while last week showed they aren’t yet over the hump to win a close game, they are going to battle. I see this game being a dogfight, and I think the Bengals can stay within a touchdown.
Philadelphia (pk) vs LA Rams. I often look to take home teams that were embarrassed the week before, and I doubt any team was more embarrassed by last week’s results than Philly was about their second half performance against the Football Team. The Rams did just enough to get past the Cowboys, and even that required a lucky pass interference call, Jared Goff is significantly less effective on the road.
Minnesota (+3) at Indianapolis. Nothing derails a football team faster than quarterback inadequacies. The Colts were unprepared for Andrew Luck to retire last season, and this year signed Phillip Rivers from the Chargers. I’ve always admired Rivers because he’s outperformed his physical abilities, but I think he’s past his sell by date, and I don’t think he’s an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett. The Vikings got victimized by Aaron Rodgers last week, but Rivers isn’t going to duplicate that, and now the Colts also don’t have their best running back, Marlon Mack, who tore his Achilles last week. An aging quarterback, a rooking running back and an angry opponent is bad algebra.
Kansas City (-8 ½) at LA Chargers. This game was at 6 ½ over the weekend, and I’m kicking myself for not jumping on that line. I’m obviously not as enamored with laying two extra points, but that original line was way short of reality. The Chiefs had little problem with the Texans last Thursday, even though it looked like they never got out of second gear. If they rev it up a little this week, the Chargers can’t keep up.